May 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Dolphins deserve to be treated as non-human “persons” whose rights to life and liberty should be respected, scientists meeting in Canada have been told. A small group of experts in philosophy, conservation and dolphin behaviour were canvassing support for a “Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans”. They believe dolphins – and their whale cousins – are sufficiently intelligent and self-aware to justify the same ethical considerations given to humans. Recognising cetaceans’ rights would mean an end to … the captivity of dolphins and whales, or their use in entertainment. The move is based on years of research that has shown dolphins and whales to have large, complex brains and a human-like level of self-awareness. This has led the experts to conclude that although non-human, dolphins and whales are “people” in a philosophical sense, which has far-reaching implications.
Ethics expert Professor Tom White, from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, author of In Defence of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier, said: “Dolphins are non-human persons. A person needs to be an individual. If individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. The captivity of beings of this sort, particularly in conditions that would not allow for a decent life, is ethically unacceptable … We’re saying the science has shown that individuality, consciousness, self-awareness, is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges.”
The declaration, originally agreed in May 2010, contains the statements “every individual cetacean has the right to life”, “no cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude, be subject to cruel treatment, or be removed from their natural environment”, and “no cetacean is the property of any state, corporation, human group or individual”.
The US authors brought their message to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada, the world’s biggest science conference.
Psychologist Dr Lori Marino, from Emory University in Atlanta, told how scientific advances had changed the view of the cetacean brain. She said: “We went from seeing the dolphin/whale brain as being a giant amorphous blob that doesn’t carry a lot of intelligence and complexity to not only being an enormous brain but an enormous brain with an enormous amount of complexity, and a complexity that rivals our own. Its different in the way it’s put together but in terms of the level of complexity it’s very similar to the human brain.” Dolphins had a sense of self which could be tested by the way they recognise themselves in mirrors, she added. When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror and know that’s you, you have a sense of ‘you’,” said Dr Marino. “They have a similar sense. They can look in a mirror and say, ‘Hey, that’s me’.
“Once you shift from seeing a being as a property, a commodity, a resource, to a person, an autonomous entity that has a right to life on his or her own terms, the whole framework shifts …”
Read the full article here.
Dolphin keeping ceased in the UK in 1993 with the last three female dolphins from Flamingoland being relocated to European facilities.
January 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
Sketch for life-sized drawing of bowhead whale (Balaeana mysticetus) – to measure 10m x 6m.
The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is a baleen whale of the right whale family Balaenidae. A stocky dark-colored whale without a dorsal fin, it can grow to 20 m (66 ft) in length. This thick-bodied species can weigh 75 tonnes (74 long tons; 83 short tons) to 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons), second only in mass to the blue whale, although the bowhead’s maximum length is less than that of several other great whales. It lives entirely in the nutrient rich Arctic and sub-Arctic waters; unlike other whales that migrate to feed or reproduce in low latitude waters. It is also known as Greenland right whale or Arctic whale. American whalemen called it the Steeple-top, Polar whale, or Russia or Russian whale. The bowhead has the largest mouth of any animal and is perhaps the longest-living mammal.
Bowheads were once thought to live 60 to 70 years, similar to other whales, however, discoveries of 19th century ivory, slate and jade spear points in freshly killed whales in 1993, 1995, 1999, and 2007 triggered research based on structures in the whale’s eye, suggesting that at least some individuals reached 150–200 years old. The amino acid racemization process has provided the scientific basis for these claims, although this process is controversial and has failed to correlate well with other dating methods.
In May 2007, a 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons) specimen caught off the Alaskan coast was discovered with the head of an explosive harpoon embedded deep beneath its neck blubber. The 3.5 inches (89 mm) arrow-shaped projectile was manufactured around 1890 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a major whaling center, suggesting the animal may have survived a similar hunt more than a century ago.